COVID-19 SPECIAL: How three mothers cope

Imparting life lessons to sons while keeping business afloat

While fighting to keep her cafe-bakery afloat, Ms Dewi Imelda Wadhwa had to balance home-based learning for her sons, Gulzar (right), 11, and Roshan, eight. Her husband, Mr C.J. Wadhwa, helped her develop a Web store for All Things Delicious.
While fighting to keep her cafe-bakery afloat, Ms Dewi Imelda Wadhwa had to balance home-based learning for her sons, Gulzar (right), 11, and Roshan, eight. Her husband, Mr C.J. Wadhwa, helped her develop a Web store for All Things Delicious. PHOTO: DEWI IMELDA WADHWA

Before the pandemic hit, things were looking rosy for Ms Dewi Imelda Wadhwa, the mum boss behind halal bakery and cafe All Things Delicious.

"Business was growing and we were having a very positive outlook; we were hiring at that time," says Ms Wadhwa, 41, who started an online bakery in 2013 after five years as a stay-at-home mother.

Word spread about her scrumptious bakes and she subsequently opened a cafe in Arab Street in 2016, expanding into catering and serving multinational companies such as Johnson & Johnson.

After Chinese New Year this year, business slumped as events were cancelled and customers started working from home. "We've never seen such numbers, ever," she says.

Anticipating the stricter measures, her husband, Mr C.J. Wadhwa, helped to develop a website which allowed them to fulfil orders within two hours. This meant they did not have to rely on food delivery firms.

Mr Wadhwa, 50, a commercial photographer whose corporate assignments has also dried up, also helps with front-of-house duties now.

"The website really took off for us," Ms Wadhwa says, adding that orders for Iftar meals to break fast during Ramadan are keeping her team busy. She is also fully booked for Mother's Day.

While fighting to keep her cafe afloat, she also had to juggle home-based learning (HBL) for her two boys, who are in Primary 3 and Primary 6.

"The first half of the day is HBL, so I would stay at home just to make sure they can log-in and all that properly. Then they have all the follow-up work that they're supposed to do within a certain time. After that, they get to play the whole day."

 
 
 

Weekends used to be spent cycling in East Coast Park or hiking in MacRitchie Reservoir Park. The boys also have sleepovers at their maternal grandparents' home. But that has been replaced with screen time, board games and Netflix pizza parties on Fridays and Saturdays.

Social distancing measures have also affected her weekend rest hours, as her team cannot operate at full strength. "We were given a limited number (of staff) to run the place. That's why it's become busier for me. I have to step in to assist them," she says, adding that her stress level is "quite high" now.

At the same time, she discovered she could be "nimble and flexible" with business decisions during the circuit breaker period.

"Instead of just looking at it in such a negative way, I really thought hard about it and asked what we can do to turn this into an opportunity for us," she says.

 

The pandemic has also brought home life lessons, which she imparts to her sons. "I tell them how much business has dropped and what we have to do in order to survive, so we talk a lot about these things. So, in a way, they can see why mummy and daddy are working so hard, so that they can be comfortable."

How she will spend Mother's Day: "Working," says Ms Wadhwa, who plans to order food in for dinner.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 10, 2020, with the headline 'Imparting life lessons to sons while keeping business afloat'. Subscribe